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Hindsight Up Front: Implications of Afghanistan Withdrawal for China and Russia

Date & Time

Sep. 10, 2021
9:00am – 10:00am ET


The U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and the Taliban’s return to power have major implications for two key U.S. competitors: China and Russia. What do developments in Afghanistan mean for their interests and for their relations with Afghanistan? Please join the Wilson Center for the latest event of its “Afghanistan: Hindsight Up Front” initiative as we address these questions and more.

Selected Quotes

Abraham Denmark

"If the Taliban were to provide security assurances, is that something we can actually trust? I'd note that, in the interim Taliban-controlled government, that was just announced, the acting interior minister is Sirajuddin Haqqani, a leader in the Haqqani Network. His father founded the network, who has a $10 million bounty on his head, who has led attacks in Afghanistan against American facilities, Afghan facilities, Indian facilities, responsible for the deaths of hundreds of hundreds of people, and now he is in charge of police in Afghanistan. So considering his role and other members of extremist groups in the Taliban government: How do we engage with this government? How do we seek assurances from them that can be it all relied upon or taking seriously?"

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Ambassador Mark Green

"On August 30th, the UN Security Council passed a resolution, calling for the Taliban to facilitate safe passage for those wanting to leave Afghanistan, to allow humanitarians safe access to the country, to uphold human rights—especially for women and children. But China and Russia abstained. Why? As part of the withdrawal, countries like the U.S., UK, Germany, Norway Australia and others, closed their embassies in Kabul. China and Russia have kept their eyes open. Why? And what does that mean for the years ahead."

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Nilofar Sakhi

"Going forward, both Russia and China will have a very close policy of engagement with the Taliban. I would see also Iran, really the three of them, will have very close policy of engagement. Why? There are some reasons that I would like to highlight here: First, Russia, of course, as a neighbor of Afghanistan, like other neighbors, is concerned about the evolving situation in Afghanistan that would involve security threats, the threats from radicalized groups, the drug trafficking. So there are three areas that Russia has been concerned with historically, and now also this particular time, but the insurgency inside Afghanistan, or potential for more insurgency inside, Russia would see that as a threat. And by the way, Russia had an experience in Afghanistan in the 1980s, especially the experience with these radicalized groups. So Russia is more concerned about the security at this particular time. And you have seen that it already expanded its presence. Russia already expanded its presence in Central Asian countries. With the Taliban take over of Kabul, Russia held military exercises in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan and put hundreds of armed vehicles, artillery pieces, at the border with Tajikistan to actually shield central Asia from potential threats and the threats of violence from next door, from Afghanistan. So, going forward, that would be the major interest of Russia—to try and impede any kind of threats from next door."

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Lu Yang

"Due to China's past history in Afghanistan, I think China is quite neutral and could be accepted by all parties in Afghanistan. And this is why, in China, there's also voices that China should pursue a constructive intervention in Afghanistan. First of all, because of the security interest, and second, because it should play as a responsible power in the world. And third, it is also a very important opportunity for China to step in to show that it can deal with it in a multilateral way."

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Alexey Davydov

"Depending on its policies, the experiment of Taliban of building an Islamic state, might become a shining example for other radical movements. Bearing this in mind, it is quite possible that the Taliban will manipulate external parties by offering some promises to stabilize the current disturbing trends, or by threatening to export these trends in the nearby region. In this regard, the fact that the United States and their allies left the country without leaving an official framework for political transition, created a vacuum of conflict management there. This vacuum presents not only a challenge for Eurasian states but also an opportunity to cooperate and prove their capacity to deal with this conflict."

Watch Clip

Taliban Fighters in Humvee

Hindsight Up Front: Lessons & Implications of Withdrawing from Afghanistan

Afghanistan’s future is more uncertain than ever. Implications of the U.S. withdrawal cannot be ignored. The Wilson Center’s new initiative — Hindsight Up Front — will keep you informed about the future of Afghanistan, its people, the region, and why it matters.

Learn More


Alexey Davydov

Research Fellow at the Regional Relations Study Group, IMEMO RAS

Lu Yang

Research Fellow, Institute of the Belt and Road Initiative, Tsinghua University

Nilofar Sakhi

Director of Policy and Diplomacy, McColm and Company

Hosted By

Indo-Pacific Program

The Indo-Pacific Program promotes policy debate and intellectual discussions on US interests in the Asia-Pacific as well as political, economic, security, and social issues relating to the world’s most populous and economically dynamic region.   Read more

Kissinger Institute on China and the United States

The Kissinger Institute works to ensure that China policy serves American long-term interests and is founded in understanding of historical and cultural factors in bilateral relations and in accurate assessment of the aspirations of China’s government and people.  Read more

Kennan Institute

The Kennan Institute is the premier US center for advanced research on Eurasia and the oldest and largest regional program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. The Kennan Institute is committed to improving American understanding of Russia, Ukraine, Central Asia, the South Caucasus, and the surrounding region though research and exchange.  Read more

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